Contagious interviewed Professor Jenni Romaniuk, the associate director at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, about Distinctive Brand Assets (January 14, 2022).

« Distinctiveness is looking like you and not like others so other people can easily identify that something is from your brand. We talk about distinctive assets because we break it down into specific elements like colours, logos and names. It’s a specific visual or audio or sensory cue that just tells people who any piece of collateral is from. »

« If you have the greatest brand but the weakest distribution, it’s not going to convert to sales…  So we talk about systems and laws of growth, of which branding and distinctiveness are a really important part… So it’s not easy to say, ‘if you’re 10% more distinctive you will get 3% more in sales’, because the line between those two things is complicated. »

« Marketers tend to inflate their asset strength, and that’s for a couple of reasons. One is they tend to have the full information about what their brand did, and they don’t understand that the consumer rarely does… And they underestimate what competitors are doing, because they don’t have full visibility of competitor activity, so they don’t understand where there’s an overlap and a consumer might confuse something they’re doing with the work of a competitor. »

« The other thing is that marketers tend to notice assets that they’re working on, which usually involves some form of change, and change is the thing that actually weakens distinctive assets. »

« Some of my best projects with companies are the ones where after the research nothing happened, because we demonstrated that it was going to either be a bad move or of no benefit. »

« The one thing I’m trying to push is that you don’t want your distinctive assets to be fashion items… And the more you change it the more you turn it into a fashion item, the more it’s likely to be a product of its time. »

« People often confuse consistency of form and consistency of use. Consistency of form is that it looks like what it is. So if you are a Coca-Cola bottle you have that shape that is a silhouette and you look like the Coke bottle. Consistency of use would be, for instance, always showing the Coca-Cola bottle in the top right corner of every ad. »

« Consistency of form is particularly important when you’re building assets, when you’re trying to strengthen an asset and get it to a point where it’s so well known that it basically replaces the brand name. If you play around with an asset too much while you’re building it, you aren’t strengthening the same asset, you’re creating different ones. »

« But once you’ve got a strong asset you don’t need consistency of use. Once you have the form in people’s minds, you can start to challenge it and have fun with it… I’ve had discussions with marketers who have tried to impose consistency of use, and that’s when you get the creative constraints that people tend to want to fight against. »

Jenni Romaniuk is the author of Building Distinctive Brand Assets (2018). 

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